Students looking for a leg up in the job market after high school have a new opportunity for training now that the Cobre Valley Institute of Technology (CVIT) has extended funding to recent graduates for technical training.
Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 1179 and House Bill 2123 in 2021, CVIT can now offer a full year of funding for graduated students to complete an extra year of certificate training for high-paying jobs in targeted industries.
The additional funding — known as 4th-Year Funding for Regional In-Demand Programs — not only benefits students, but helps guide qualified workers toward professions in fields that are experiencing labor shortages throughout the state, based on labor market data provided by the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity.
“Fourth-year funding allows us to capture education dollars for one year immediately after high school is finished,” says CVIT Superintendent Mike O’Neal. “It broadens opportunities for the students, because it gives them an additional chance as they mature and figure out they want to do something different with their lives.”
Prior to the legislative adjustment, CVIT was only able to provide three years of funding for high school students beginning in sophomore year, and seniors had to have their two-year certifications completed by graduation. Graduates now have an extra year to finish or can complete a one-year certification as well.
Now the window of opportunity has opened further for those who start late, decide to change direction or are motivated to get more than one certificate over the course of their schooling.
For instance, if a student enrolled in a construction program as a sophomore completes certification in their junior year and decides to enroll in a different program in their senior year, there is now funding available to allow that student to complete the program after graduation.
Likewise, for a student involved in sports or other extracurricular activities who did not have time to complete a program within the high school window. Those “13th-year” students now have an extra year of time to start or finish up a Regional In-Demand CTE Program.
There are many opportunities in the allied health fields available for 4th-Year Funding, from medical assisting services to nursing assistant or dental assisting, that offer quick entry into a well-paying job or career.
Megan Martinez is an associate professor in the nursing program and Director of the Allied Health departments at EAC-Gila Pueblo Campus, who teaches the medical assistant and phlebotomy portion of Allied Health for CVIT students.
She says that much of the basic curriculum of Allied Health translates well into each individual field of study and she expects increased participation as word gets out that 4th-Year funding is available.
One of the most important things Martinez imparts to her students is that once high school is over, they have to figure out what they intend to do with their lives. She believes the opportunity will give them a chance to rethink their options through programs available at no cost, and as they learn how expensive post-high school education can be.
“It’s getting the kids to understand that high school is going to be over and they have a life after that,” Martinez says. “I always tell them high school is only four years of your life, and you have to be planning: Yes, you want to enjoy your high school years, but you want to be set for when you graduate.”
Citing the cost of continuing education — her own daughter received significant financial aid to attend ASU, but Martinez says she still had a lot of out of pocket expenses to pay — Martinez sees Allied Health fields as a means to help pay for schooling or as an entryway to a fulfilling career in and of itself.
The curriculum can also offer students a baseline education to work in many different facets of the field. The additional funding can allow students to get multiple certifications that can open the door for even more opportunity.
“We have such a need in health care for all of these positions, so someone that has both their nursing assistant and their medical assistant licenses are able to utilize them in multiple areas,” says EAC-Gila Pueblo Campus Nursing Assistant Program Coordinator and Associate Professor and CVIT instructor Jennifer Carlson. “That’s even more potential for students that have the two programs under their belt. I think that’s awesome and can open the door for future advancement.”
Carlson says that the programs can even build on each other as the basic skills overlap in the healthcare industry. Even those who are not interested in a career in the field can take advantage of the programs to help them achieve whatever their future dreams might be.
She points to one of her students who knows she does not want to work in the medical field, but is not interested in low-wage employment as she works toward a college degree.
“Her point to me was, when she’s in college, her part-time job is going to be as a nursing assistant,” Carlson says. “That is a significant part-time job compared to a fast food worker, or whatever. She has a good point: Even if you choose not to work in this field you’ve been gifted this opportunity.”
For the undecided student, “This gives them a taste of healthcare to see if it is what they want to do,” she concludes.
Ultimately, CVIT’s programs help students prepare for the world outside of high school where many will have to learn how to navigate a complex system in a professional atmosphere.
“We go back to the basics of having accountability, being responsive, safety and teamwork,” says Nursing Instructor Anjanette Bolinger for EAC-Gila Pueblo Campus and CVIT students. “I really enjoy teaching them at that stage, because when they complete our nursing program they have a solid foundation when it comes to our expectations.”
Bolinger adds that her students are “hirable as soon as they finish our programs,” and have an increased likelihood to find a job as soon as they get certified.
CVIT is part of a system of 14 Career and Technical Education Districts (CTED) in Arizona created in 1990 by legislative statute 15-393, and in 2021 the language of 15-393 was updated to increase funding an additional year for students who want to earn certificates in fields that need workers.
CVIT serves six rural school districts including Globe, Miami, Ray, Superior, San Carlos and Hayden-Winkelman.
For more information, go to www.cvit81.org.
Journalist, writer and editor who has worked for community newspapers for more than 15 years. After four years at Davis-Monthan AFB and a few years living in Tucson, moved to California to find his fortune. He is happy to be back in Arizona, in the mountains he loves.